The Australian Christian Lobby has expressed concern that a Shorten Labor Government will not allow protections for freedom of conscience for business owners should the definition of marriage be changed in law.



ACL Managing director Lyle Shelton said regardless of where people stood on the marriage debate, he believed most people did not want to see their fellow Australians fined because they lived out their beliefs about marriage.



“Across America and Europe bakers, florists, wedding chapel owners and photographers are being sued for living out their sincerely held beliefs about marriage,” Mr Shelton said.



“Australians are better than this but the current lack of understanding by politicians about how same-sex marriage takes away peoples’ right to differ means we could head down this path.”



Mr Shelton was responding to fresh comments made by Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, ruling out fundamental freedoms for those who oppose same-sex marriage.



He said it was also concerning that senior Liberal minister Christopher Pyne and new Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman had echoed Mr Shorten’s views ruling out protection for business owners who wished to exercise the right not to participate in weddings which violated their conscientiously held views on marriage.



“It is important for all parliamentarians to realise that clergy are not the only people who have freedom of religion and freedom of conscience rights.



“Mr Shorten’s comments, reportedly made at Guardian Australia’s same-sex marriage event last week, make it clear that only one view on marriage will be tolerated in a society that he governs,” Mr Shelton said.



“People operating wedding businesses whose consciences cause them to hold the view that marriage is between a man and a woman could face considerable fines under anti-discrimination laws should the definition of marriage be changed,” Mr Shelton said.



“This is not about refusing to serve people because they are same-sex attracted, it is about the freedom to decline to participate in something which violates a conscientiously held belief.”



Mr Shelton called on Labor Party parliamentarians and members to express their concern with the direction that the Labor Party was heading on basic human rights and freedoms.



“The rights to a free conscience, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are the nuts and bolts of democracy. If they are to fall, then we have serious questions to answer regarding our democracy. It is deeply troubling that a political leader is so overtly opposed to them.



“Most fair-minded Australians would accept the right of a person to maintain their belief that gender and biology still matter to marriage and family and to always be free to give voice to that belief.



“Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to a flourishing society. When the definition is changed, the law will say that gender is irrelevant to the foundation of society.



“Those who believe gender, kinship and biological identity do matter to society’s fabric will be fundamentally at odds with the law and the anti-discrimination laws will be weaponised against them.”



Mr Shelton said the fact that Hobart Archbishop Julian Porteous has remained before the Tasmananian Anti-Discrimination Commission these past six months for distributing a pastoral letter on marriage should sound alarm bells to all who believe in freedom and tolerance.



“Now that politicians have indicated that freedom of conscience will be curtailed under same-sex marriage, this is all the more reason to vote to preserve the definition of marriage in the up-coming plebiscite.”



ENDS